Study abroad can change your life. The experience will introduce you to new people from all walks of life, gives you confidence, improves your problem-solving skills, helps you to grow comfortable in unfamiliar situations, and increases your tolerance and patience. Just how are you supposed to include the many ways that study abroad shaped you into better a person on your resume? Look no further, because here's your guide to writing about study abroad when applying for a job.
If you're reading this article before you start your study abroad, that's great! That means that while you're away, you can put in the extra effort to pick up some skills that will benefit you in the future.
One great thing to do is start a study abroad blog and publish content to it for the entire duration of your trip. It'll prove that you are dedicated and can stick with a task for several months at a time. It'll show you pick up skills quickly, as running a blog entails learning skills, such as writing, editing, marketing, networking, social media, editing photos, and building a brand. This is especially useful if you'll be applying for a job in publishing or any other creative industry.
You could take language classes while you're away, which will never look bad on a resume! You could use your spare weekend to travel, which helps make you a more well-rounded individual. You could volunteer during your spare time, which again, will never count against you when applying for a job.
It's definitely worth noting on your resume that these were extra-curricular activities: that they weren't required by your program, and that you took the initiative yourself because you wanted to get the most out of your study abroad experience.
Create a Subheading Under Your Education Heading
Study abroad is different to attending college because you pick up far more skills through moving abroad. It's because of this that you'll want to list study abroad under its own heading. This will allow you to talk about the experience and what you gained from it in more detail rather than trying to summarize it in a single bullet point.
Consider a Countries Visited Section
I'd only recommend including this section if you're applying for a job that would entail you to travel frequently. If that's the case, including a list of countries you visited (both during study abroad and before/after) will show that you're open to traveling and are used to the stresses and difficulties it can bring.
Pick and Choose From These List of Skills
You probably already know the ways in which study abroad (and travel) has helped you better yourself as a person, but getting all of that down on paper is easier said than done. Think about why you decided to study abroad, what you were hoping to gain from it, and if you were successful or not. How did study abroad change you? Ask your friends and family about the changes they've seen if you're struggling to come up with some yourself.
Here are a few options to help you get started, as well as examples in case you're asked to expand upon them in the interview:
- Financial management skills: If you're heading overseas, you most likely had a brand new currency and exchange rate to deal with. Not on that, but you had to budget in a foreign country, where you originally weren't aware of how much things cost. If you decided to take advantage of your new destination and travel, this would have brought even more money management skills into play, as you had, even more, currencies to deal with, along with trying not to throw your money away.
- Improved language skills: If English wasn't the first language spoken in the country you studied in, you most likely picked up quite a bit of the language during your time there. Even if you're not fluent, it's worth including this, as it means you wouldn't have to work as hard to achieve fluency if required in your job, and it shows you're willing to make the effort to communicate effectively.
- Honed your problem-solving skills: Study abroad is all about problem-solving, whether it's navigating a brand new college to trying to figure out the local bus timetable. Functioning in an unfamiliar country in an unfamiliar language is going to lead to problems whenever you leave your room!
- Improved people skills: Studying abroad leads to you meeting dozens of new people, which no matter how socially awkward you were to begin with, can only improve your people skills. You learn how to be comfortable around people from a whole range of backgrounds, whether they can speak the same language as you or not. You may have had to make friends with people and nurture those friendships because you didn't know anybody else in the country.
- Enhanced knowledge of geography and global issues: Once you leave the United States and live in another country, your knowledge of the world become broader. It can happen simply by reading the local English-language newspapers or watching the news. If you're studying abroad in Europe, the news will be focused more on European countries, so you can't help but learn more about the region.
- Learned communication techniques: If someone doesn't speak the same language as you, but you need to communicate with them, how do you do so? After time spent studying abroad, you'll most likely know how to do this! Communicating with people who don't speak your language teaches you how to mime efficiently, encourages you to pick up words and phrases you can use in conversation, and teaches you the art of patience, rather than just speaking even louder in English in the hope that'll make you better understood.
- Improved cultural awareness and sensitivity: Spending time in a foreign country only increases your tolerance and awareness of the local population. Think about any preconceptions you had about the country and local people of the country you went to study abroad in -- have they changed?
And From This List of Personal Qualities
You'll have no doubt improved your personal qualities while you've been studying abroad as well! Here are a few examples of qualities that you may want to include in your resume:
- Independent and self-reliant
- Flexible and adaptable to unfamiliar situations
- Open to being relocated
- Appreciative of diversity
Don't Give it All Away
The key to a successful resume is staying concise and sharing only the most important information. You want to share just enough that your future employer can tell it's a desirable quality, but keep some information to yourself so that they'll want to invite you to an interview to ask more.
A few examples of this include:
- “Immersed myself in the language and culture of France”
- "Adapted to an unfamiliar environment when living with a local family in Argentina"
- "Improved problem-solving skills when traveling solo across the Balkans"
Don't Forget About Your References
When writing your references section, you could include a professor or supervisor from your study abroad experience. They'll be able to speak first-hand about how the experience helped you develop many skills while overseas, as well as backing up your international experience.
Prepare for an Interview as You Write
As you're putting together your resume, keep in mind how you'll explain every point if you were to be chosen for an interview. You don't want to exaggerate anything in case you'll then be called out on it in person, for example! Instead, after every bullet point you include, practice talking about that point as if somebody had asked you for more information.
If you can't readily talk about a certain point and use it to sell yourself to an interviewer? Don't include it on the resume.